Kansai International Airport

Located on an artificial island in Ōsaka Bay, thirty-eight kilometres south-west of downtown Ōsaka. Kansai International Airport took over as the city's international gateway in September 1994. 

The former Ōsaka International Airport, which is much closer to the city now handles domestic flights.

The new airport was one of a number of developments that aimed to revitalise Ōsaka and regain some of the economic and cultural ground lost to Tōkyō over the previous century. 

It was originally slated to be built near Kōbe, but the city's authorities rejected the suggestion, so the site was moved to a more southerly location where it could operate twenty-four hours a day. 

Work on the four by two and a half kilometre artificial island started in 1987, involved some ten thousand workers, required nearly two hundred million cubic metres of fill and ended up costing close to twenty billion US dollars, making it the most expensive civil works project in recent history. 

When the work was finished, it had expanded Ōsaka Prefecture's land surface by just enough to move it past Kagawa, which became the country's smallest prefecture as far as its terrestrial footprint was concerned.

The operational statistics (here: http://www.kansai-airports.co.jp/en/company-profile/about-airports/kix.html) are equally impressive, as is the fact that the terminal survived the Kōbe earthquake on 17 January 1995. 

Although the quake's epicentre was a mere twenty kilometres away, everything, including the massive glass windows, remained more or less intact. 

It comes as no surprise to learn that the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the airport one of ten "Civil Engineering Monuments of the Millennium" in 2001.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing. 

The original plans anticipated the artificial island would sink by just under six metres as its weight compressed the silt on the seabed below it, but by 1999 it had gone down more than eight and was attracting widespread criticism as a geotechnical engineering disaster. 

The current rate of sinking is supposedly down to around seven centimetres a year.

The airport is also deeply in debt, losing massive amounts of money every year and requiring massive government subsidies to stay afloat financially.

© Ian Hughes 2017